Chris from Middletown, CT

You think Watergate changed it all? I wasn’t around for Watergate, so I guess I don’t really appreciate its full impact, but I suspect ESPN changed the relationship between athletes and reporters.

Watergate changed how newspapers covered teams. All of a sudden, reporters at big newspapers that could afford paying their own way stopped flying on the team charter. Newspapers began ordering their sports reporters to create distance between themselves and the teams they covered. It was a directive from the newsroom, not the sports department. News departments all over the country wanted to be more Woodward and Bernstein-like, and I think it was fine for news departments to act that way, but I think it resulted in the sports pages losing some flavor. Sports shouldn’t be treated the same as hard news, in my opinion.

Taylor from Story City, IA

Could a team with the right style of players win in today’s NFL while running all of their plays out of the wildcat formation?

I doubt it. The wildcat, in my opinion, was a simple-minded formation and concept that succeeded only when it created senseless hesitation in the defense.

Sam from Springfield, IL

When a player is traded, does the guaranteed money in his contract get transferred to his new team’s cap?

Whatever the original team paid the player stays with the original team. For example, if the original team paid the player a $10 million signing bonus on a 5-year contract and traded the player after the second year of the contract, the original team still has $6 million to pass through its cap after it trades the player. The cap can be an obstacle in trading a player.

Thomas from Park Falls, WI

Vic, it’s June and I already can’t wait for football to start. Do you get amped up as the preseason or regular season draws near?

I go through a kind of football withdraw when the season ends. I’ve become so accustomed to the high-pressure, hurry-up routine of the season that I find myself unable to shut it down in the days and weeks following the end of the season. By springtime, I’ve settled into a nice, normal routine. No more writing stories on a bouncing tray table in the middle of the night; instead, I’m sleeping. I do things on weekends other than watch football. I eat dinner at normal hours and take my first sips of coffee every morning at home, not at work. The offseason is a nice life and as we head toward July I feel the end nearing, and it always creates anxiety in me. Goodbye golf. Goodbye normal life. I’ll see you again in February. That attitude quickly changes with the first thud of pads at training camp. It’s back, baby! I was born to do this, and it’s a good thing, because I lack the skill to do anything else.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

I see you mentioned getting 10 wins or more will be good enough to get into the playoffs. With teams like the Vikings, Panthers, Seahawks and Cardinals being up-and-coming teams, do you really think 10 wins will be good enough? I see 10 wins as being borderline in this conference.

Ten wins have always been the borderline. Usually, it’s good enough to get a team into the playoffs. Sometimes it’s not. This conference? I’ll remind you the AFC is on a two-year Super Bowl winning streak.

Garrett from Saint Paul, MN

Vic, if the media relationship with players was like it was in the old days, who would you want to be your guy? I am guessing Mike Daniels because he is an old-school type guy, but maybe there is someone else?

Daniels is the kind of player I would feel comfortable to ask after a game, “What happened out there, Mike?” That’s the kind of player I want in an interview. I want to be able to ask him a reasonable question and get a full answer. That’s my kind of guy and I think Mike would respond fully to that question. Why? Because he respects the fans and understands the media is the link to the fans. When a player talks to reporters, he’s talking to the fans. I think a reporter should also act with that belief in my mind. What do the fans want to know? What I don’t want to do is act out an inquisition. Hey, let’s talk like real people, not as prosecuting attorney and hostile witness.

Dennis from Rhinelander, WI

Vic, do your sons read your column? If so, now they know you’ve been lying to them all these years.

I didn’t want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.

Daniel from Potosi, WI

Vic, how do you personally compare Lambeau Field to other NFL stadiums?

Lambeau is a perfect blend of old and new. It has all the bells and whistles of the new stadiums, but the bench seats and bowl configuration give Lambeau a Spartan feel that evokes the spirit of the past. If I was visiting Lambeau Field for the first time, my first question would still be, “Which end zone was it?”

David from Coeur d’Alene, ID

Baseball is a game perfectly suited to radio listening; it still is. During the heyday of radio baseball was king. Football is way more suited for color television, especially today’s big screen, high-def TVs. Television is what made football king. What says, Vic?

Football’s good on TV, but I think it’s even better in person. Can you smell the leaves through your TV? Can you see the darkening clouds rolling in over the top of the stadium on your TV? Can you feel the chill that says winter is on the way? TV can tell you everything about the game, but it can’t personalize the experience. That’s what being there does. It makes the game a personal experience.

Steve from Wauwatosa, WI

How do you think the game will change next? What rule change or new rule will make the game different? What would you like to be changed? What do you think will be changed?

I can’t answer all of those questions, but I’ll throw a radical idea at you: How about offensive pass interference resulting in the defense’s ball at the spot of the foul? Hey, if we’re going to assume the catch on defensive pass interference, shouldn’t we assume the interception on offensive pass interference? The rules of football are not fair. They favor offense.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

Thanks for the hockey commentary. The presumptive first overall pick (Auston Matthews) in this month’s NHL draft grew up in the Phoenix area. Last year there were 78 Canadians drafted and 56 Americans. That shows how the game has grown in our country.

That is powerful evidence for the growth of hockey in America. Maybe soccer isn’t the threat, hockey is.

Willie from Hayward, WI

Vic, I read the NFL will not allow the Patriots to conduct any activities where the players are not wearing jerseys with numbers. Belichick got the idea from Chuck Noll. What do you recall from the Steelers when practices were conducted without numbers on their jerseys?

I’ve talked about this in this column, but nobody seemed to care until it involved Coach Belichick. Coach Noll’s teams never wore numbers on their practice jerseys. I was told Coach Noll wanted his coaches to be able to identify the players according to their movements, but I suspect it was also intended to counter spy tactics. When I began covering the NFL, coaches were obsessed with the notion “spies are among us,” to quote Coach Noll. His eyes would always find a lone man on the hillside at training camp, and he would glance at the man on occasion to monitor his movements. The Steelers and Redskins conducted combined practices, and they’d cap those practices with a scrimmage. At the Redskins’ camp in Carlisle one summer, the Redskins appeared to be wearing game uniforms for the scrimmage. The Steelers showed up in their number-less practice togs, replete with tears in the jerseys and grass stains on the pants. Redskins TV complained: How are we going to identify the Steelers players? As the Steelers climbed out of their buses, a wide receiver named Weegie Thompson described the scene as “the Washington Redskins vs. Joe’s Bar and Grill.”

Donnie from Antigo, WI

Vic, our local high school and my alma mater uses a three-back system that has never changed in 60 years. We never ran it in a T formation but it is very similar. It consists of two tight ends (never receivers), a fullback and two halfbacks. The fullback always lines up behind the quarterback, with one halfback on the side of him and the other behind him; sometimes both halfbacks are behind the fullback. The offense is loaded with dives, traps, reads and options. The offense is extremely productive in rushing and has produced four state championships from the late sixties through the early eighties.

When the halfbacks are lined up behind the fullback, your high school is in the “Maryland True I.” One halfback lined up alongside the fullback is an I/T hybrid. I’d tend to think of it as a variation of the “Split-T formation,” especially if the line splits are as wide as I suspect your school’s are.

Mark from North Bay, WI

Vic, a vivid memory I have of the no-hands era was when holding was called on a running play. The camera would switch to the coach and the announcer would say, “Holding is bad enough, but when it’s on a running play it’s even worse.”

Back then, it was common to hear coaches in practice yell out, “Throw, throw!” They weren’t telling the quarterback to throw the ball. What did they mean?

Dennis from Naples, FL

They claim on his 50th birthday Darrell Green ran a 4.48 40! Think about that.

I’m not sure I believe it. Some years ago, at a Jaguars practice, Jack Del Rio created a little challenge for his kicker at the end of practice. If he missed the kick, the team had to run gassers. If he made the kick, the coaches had to run. The kicker made the kick and what I observed was an exercise too painful looking for the players to enjoy. Del Rio’s staff of coaches, many of them young men, hobbled back and forth across the field as though they were all just days removed from knee surgery. Not too many years earlier, they were great athletes. Now, they could barely run.


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